Heart attack, it’s a big deal.
So 2 weeks ago my mum had not 1 but 2 heart attacks. My mum is a nurse and works very hard in a hospital over an hours drive from the small town where she lives. She had arrived at work early on the Friday morning complaining if chest pains and shortness of breath, one if her colleagues insisted on taking her pulse – which was racing. Her colleague also insisted on an ECG straight away only to find out my mother had suffered a minor heart attack.
She has been suffering sharp chest pains for a few months but thought nothing of them, passing them off as indigestion. Turns out she was wrong.
I found out that my mother had a heart attack at approx 4pm that afternoon after she had it at 7am. The hospital had informed her husband who failed to contact anyone else to raise the awareness. Needless to say I was fuming. This is my mother, this is her health and this is very important.
The way I found out is not ideal, I was on a play date with a friend and our two boys and received a calm from my older sister asking if I had heard from mum. My reply was no as I hadn’t. I asked her why? He response that she received a weird text from her but had tried calling mums mobile only to have it ring out or go to voice mail. She was taking her 3 children to the dentist and asked me to keep trying.
I decided to call the hospital where our mother works. To my shock I was transferred to the emergency department where a nurse informed me that she had was unable to talk as she had a heart attack and they were running tests to work out why.
I called my sister to inform her and she rushed to the hospital which is 1.5hrs away ASAP.
The hospital staff were concerned after running tests so sent her via patient transport to a larger hospital the next day. I of course travelled to that hospital on the Sunday morning with my toddler for a visit. I received a call from my sister earlier that morning saying she had another heart attack earlier that morning.
My mum is young 54 to be exact, how can this happen to her? Why has this happened to her?
After many tests, cardiac ablation )which required nodes to be removed from her heart) and an angiogram it turns out the heart attacks were caused by a condition called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Which basically means the sufferer has emotional stress. It’s also called ‘octopus heart’ or ‘broken heart syndrome’.
Now before the shock set in I was thinking, mode removed? Why? Doesn’t she need those?
Nodes in the heart are what basically pumps the heart, nodes create the electrical conduction for the heart to pump. Normal electrical conduction in the heart allows impulses that are generated by the sinoatrial node (SA node) of the heart to be propagated (stimulate) the cardiac muscle (myocardium). The myocardium contracts after it’s stimulated. It is the stimulation of the myocardium that allows contraction of the heart, allowing blood to be pumped throughout the rat of our body’s.
My mum herself is a highly trained nurse and has been for many years, yes she has a stressful life but to hear this diagnosis is a little shocking.
I won’t go into her personal life details but there are many confirmed reasons as to why she is suffering ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’. Now it’s up to her and our family to try and eliminate these stresses to ensure that she is around with us for many years to come.
After much research into this I’ve found the descriptions below from a Harvard Health publication.
It’s named after an octopus trap — and that’s not all that’s unusual about this reversible heart condition. It occurs almost exclusively in women.
Years of gender-based research have shown that in matters of the heart, sex differences abound. One striking example is the temporary heart condition known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, first described in 1990 in Japan. More than 90% of reported cases are in women ages 58 to 75. Research suggests that at least 6% of women evaluated for a heart attack actually have this disorder, which has only recently been reported in the United States and may go largely unrecognized. Fortunately, most people recover rapidly with no long-term heart damage.
Features of takotsubo cardiomyopathy
Chest pain and shortness of breath after severe stress (emotional or physical)
Electrocardiogram abnormalities that mimic those of a heart attack
No evidence of coronary artery obstruction
Movement abnormalities in the left ventricle
Ballooning of the left ventricle
Recovery within a month
What is it?
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, usually as the result of severe emotional or physical stress, such as a sudden illness, the loss of a loved one, a serious accident, or a natural disaster such as an earthquake. (For additional examples, see “Stressors associated with takotsubo cardiomyopathy.”) That’s why the condition is also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome. The main symptoms are chest pain and shortness of breath.
Stressors associated with takotsubo cardiomyopathy*
Sudden drop in blood pressure
Serious illness, surgery, or medical procedure (e.g., cardiac stress test)
Receiving bad news (such as a diagnosis of cancer)
Car or other accident
Unexpected loss, illness, or injury of a close relative, friend, or pet
A surprise party or other sudden surprise
The precise cause isn’t known, but experts think that surging stress hormones (for example, adrenaline) essentially “stun” the heart, triggering changes in heart muscle cells or coronary blood vessels (or both) that prevent the left ventricle from contracting effectively. Researchers suspect that older women are more vulnerable because of reduced levels of estrogen after menopause. In studies with rats whose ovaries had been removed, the ones given estrogen while under stress had less left-ventricle dysfunction and higher levels of certain heart-protective substances.
Takotsubo symptoms are indistinguishable from those of a heart attack. And an electrocardiogram (ECG) may show abnormalities also found in some heart attacks — in particular, changes known as ST-segment elevation. Consequently, imaging studies and other measures are needed to rule out a heart attack. To get a definitive diagnosis, clinicians look for the following:
No evidence on an angiogram of blockages in the coronary arteries — the most common cause of heart attacks. (The coronary arteries are also not blocked in microvessel disease, a more common cause of heart attack symptoms in older women. Microvessel disease results from abnormal dilation of the blood vessels feeding the heart.)
A rapid but small rise in cardiac biomarkers (substances released into the blood when the heart is damaged). In a heart attack, cardiac biomarkers take longer to rise but peak higher.
Evidence from an x-ray, echocardiogram (ultrasound image), or other imaging technique that there are abnormal movements in the walls of the left ventricle. The most common abnormality in takotsubo cardiomyopathy — the one that gives the disorder its name — is ballooning of the lower part of the left ventricle (apex). During contraction (systole), this bulging ventricle resembles a tako-tsubo, a pot used by Japanese fishermen to trap octopuses. Another term for the disorder is apical ballooning syndrome. (See “Apical ballooning and the tako-tsubo.”)
Heart attacks can be caused by many factors of our lives and can occur at any age or any fitness level.
If you are suffering any type of stress or tightness in your chest, please see your doctor. No life is worth losing.